- Project Name
- Sonoma Academy’s Janet Durgin Guild and Commons
- WRNS Studio
- Project Types
- Project Scope
- New Construction
- 2018 AIASF Design Awards
- Shared by
- Project Status
This article appeared in the November 2018 issue of ARCHITECT:
For a new building on a private school campus in Santa Rosa, Calif., WRNS Studio worked with the municipality to incorporate sustainable design strategies that are ahead of code.
With a mixed-use program of dining facilities, teaching studios, and fabricator spaces, the Janet Durgin Guild & Commons is a new two-story building on Sonoma Academy’s 34-acre campus in Santa Rosa, Calif. The two-story structure comprises 19,000 square feet of conditioned indoor space with an additional 22,000 square feet of unconditioned floor area. The elegant Y-shaped, steel-and-glass building is built into a sloped site between existing structures on the preparatory school’s rural campus (demonstrated by its Walk Score of 5).
Northern California is hardly hostile ground to environmentally friendly architecture, yet one of the more remarkable aspect of the project is how hard the San Francisco–based team from WRNS Studio had to work to implement some of the building’s more innovative initiatives. “I wish it was a slam dunk,” WRNS Studio partner and director of sustainability Pauline Souza, AIA, says. But while local regulatory agencies were not resistant to tackling the issues, they do still struggle a bit with what’s new. “They don’t always know how to review the data,” Souza explains.
The parts of the lower level that are built into the hillside incorporate watershed block—a concrete masonry unit that uses pressed local soil to reduce embodied carbon. “We had to show that its compressive strength meets that typical of a block element,” Souza says. The structural engineer partnered with the manufacturer to sell the idea to officials—requiring numerous conversations, calculations, and proof of concept.
Incorporating a geoexchange system to provide heating and cooling for the interior required more time to deal with the campus’ residential neighbors than the regulators: Nearby homeowners were worried about the potential construction noise and vibrations when they heard about the 30-foot-deep wells. “We shared sound impact data with them,” Souza says. “It was a construction issue that required continual conversation to meet their concerns.”
A blackwater system and composting toilets proved to be a little too advanced to gain acceptance from local authorities at the time, but the architects designed the building to accept such features in the future. “We had to set an example,” Souza explains. “We can educate the students as environmental stewards.”
The design’s deep porches provide protected outdoor spaces while shielding the building’s predominantly glass envelope from solar heat gain. A second-floor dining room features floor-to-ceiling glass with multiple sliding doors that provide plentiful natural ventilation. The copious glazing provides natural light to 80 percent of the building with 95 percent of the occupiable area having direct views of the outdoors.
Despite some of the high load functions of the building—a commercial kitchen that serves the dining room and a second teaching one, for example—the Commons achieves net-zero energy. There’s no gas cooking—electric induction is used instead—a decision that required some convincing by the architects. And not only is the kitchen powered solely by the PV array atop the building—its footprint is considerably smaller than usual. The designers achieved this by providing smaller food prep areas than typical in new construction—a trick they and their consultants learned from fitting restaurant kitchens into existing urban locales.
Ground-source heat pumps provide radiant heating and cooling—typically through the floor—in all spaces. Ductwork is solely used for the ventilation of the academic studios, and is aided by ceiling fans and large glass garage doors that open to the lower courtyard to provide lots of fresh air. The studios and fabricator spaces are intentionally located on the lower level, where they nestle into the hill, providing acoustical isolation from the rest of the campus as well as neighbors.
Despite the project’s rural site—which lies in a transition zone between two distinct plant communities—only 28 percent of its area supported vegetation prior to the new building’s construction. The architects incorporated a dynamic landscape, including a green roof, to support vegetation over 87 percent of the area—mixing perennials that provide flowers across different times of the year.
Water use is reduced by filtering stormwater and rainwater through planters and diverting it to a new 5,000-gallon cistern that plugs into an existing cistern system on the opposite side of the site. Its reuse supplies 88 percent of the building’s non-potable water demand.
The architects decided to pursue the Living Building Challenge (LBC)’s Materials Petal—which proved challenging: A key strategy was to keep the finish schedule as small as possible—which was consistent with the minimal expression desired for the building and necessitated the vetting of fewer materials. “But there are still hardly enough components to make a building,” Souza says. One small example of achieving fewer materials was using the same locally sourced ceramic tile chosen for the bathrooms in the elevator. “It’s about being smart,” Souza explains. “Why not use it?”
“How can our selections lead to a healthier environment?” Souza asks. Using reclaimed wood is one example of using materials that already existed. The architects were able to source quite a bit of wood from a house in nearby Marin County and a tunnel in the northwest, and the different provenance is obvious. “They tell different stories,” she says. The exterior terrace soffit uses 100 percent FSC-certified cross laminated timber.
Souza notes the strong relationship between ideas of beauty and sustainability: “They’re the same thing—both take time and tenacity.”
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Project: Sonoma Academy’s Janet Durgin Guild and Commons, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Client: Sonoma Academy
Architect: WRNS Studio, San Francisco . Pauline Souza, AIA (partner, director of sustainability); Sam Nunes, AIA, Adam Woltag, AIA (partners); Emily Jones, AIA, Eileen Ong, AIA (associates); Jeremy Shiman, Joel Baumgardner, AIA, Diana Ford (project team)
Interior Designer: WRNS Studio
M/P Engineer: Interface Engineering
Structural Engineer: Mar Structural Design
Electrical Engineer: Integral Group
Civil Engineer: Sherwood Design Engineers
Construction Manager/ General Contractor: XL Construction
Landscape Architect: RHAA Landscape Architects Green
Roof Consultant: Rana Creek
Energy Modeler: Interface
Daylighting Consultant: Integral
Acoustician: Charles M. Salter Associates
Kitchen Design: Vision Builders
Size: 19,500 square feet
Materials and Sources
Acoustical System: Epic Metals (deck); Conwed Designscape (walls); Vitro (acoustical glass)
Adhesives/Coatings/Sealants: Dow (exterior joint sealant)
Carpet: Milliken Ceilings: Fantoni
Exterior Wall Systems: Heritage Salvage (reclaimed wood); Rockwool (mineral fiberboard); GCP Applied Technologies (membrane air barrier)
Glass: Vitro Insulation: Knauf Insulation; Owens Corning; Rockwool
Millwork: Pacific Panel Products (perforated wood panels); Quartzstone, Icestone (solid surface); Chemetal (laminate)
Roofing: GCP Applied Technologies; American Hydrotech
Wallcoverings: Marlite; Daltile, Heath Ceramics, Marc Thomas, Sonoma Tile (tile)
Read expanded coverage of the winners of the 2018 AIA COTE Top Ten Awards.
From April 2018:
This project is a winner in the 2018 COTE Top Ten Green Projects Awards.
From the AIA:
Embedded with maker/digital classrooms, productive gardens, offices and a full dining/kitchen, Sonoma Academy’s guiding principles of equity, community, and exploration inspired the Guild & Commons two sweeping floors, which stretch to views and integrate into the land. Sliding screens, automated shades, deep overhangs relay how the building responds to climate. Regionally sourced low carbon block, ceramic tiles, reclaimed beams, exterior and interior siding, pair with regionally made lamps and furniture to celebrate community. The living roof attracts pollinators, houses photovoltaics, and connects to tiered planters that filter greywater and stormwater for reuse. The project seeks LEED, ZNE, WELL, LBC certification.
Predicted consumed energy use intensity (EUI): 43 kBtu/sq ft/yr
Predicted Net EUI: -4.85 kBtu/sq ft/yr
Predicted Net carbon emissions: 0 lb/sq ft/yr
Predicted reduction from national average EUI for building type: 62 percent
Predicted lighting power density: 0.45 W/sq ft
Percentage of the site area designed to support vegetation: 87
Percentage of site area supporting vegetation before project began: 28
Percentage of landscaped areas covered by native or climate appropriate plants supporting native or migratory animals: 100
CO₂ intensity: 88 lbs of CO2 (10.9 lbs CO₂ /sf)
Estimated carbon emissions associated with building construction: 60 lbs/sq ft
Predicted annual consumption of potable water for all uses, including process water: 15 gallons
Percentage of water consumed onsite from rainwater capture: 88
Is greywater or blackwater captured for reuse? Yes